For weeks I have been watching the news and reading these heartbreaking stories about the dangers of the flu season. It never really crossed my mind that this could happen to me or that I could suffer a bad complication from the flu. Maybe I am naive, but I always figured I was blessed with a great immune system and this was never a concern for me. Well, maybe I should have been a little more prepared.
A week prior to being hospitalized, I came down with the flu. To say that it was horrible would be an understatement. I suffered from severe body aches, high fevers, fatigue, and a horrible cough. As a mother, being sick with the flu is difficult both physically and emotionally. It is impossible to explain to a 2-year-old, why mommy is home but can’t take care of them. I spent five days lying in bed just doing my very best not to infect my son and husband.
About seven days after the onset of my symptoms, my fever had resolved, but my cough was getting progressively worse. This cough seemed different to me but I figured it was just one more symptom I would have to battle. The cough progressed and I started to develop chest pain. That was my tipping point. After hearing such tragic stories about the dangers of this particular strand of the flu, I didn’t want to take any chances and I drove right over to the ER.
I was hysterical. I was scared. I walked in to check myself in and the ER was packed. It was a true awakening of the impact the flu. There was a 3-hour wait time and stretchers lining the hallways. Is this really happening? I was mad at myself for letting it get to this point.
What about the flu shot?
Before I continue, the answer is: NO, I did not get the flu shot. I am not sure I will ever forgive myself for that. I put my health at risk. I brought my son to get one. My husband got one too. Knowing this year we were going to try for a second child, I didn’t feel comfortable getting it.
Had I done my research, I would have learned that it is not only safe to get a flu shot while trying to get pregnant, but that pregnancy is a risk factor for complications of the flu. Even if I decided to get the shot, when was I going to find the time to go? Isn’t that every busy mom’s excuse? As a mother, you are so focused on everyone and everything else in your life that you tend to neglect your own health and well being.
I spent almost 24 hours in the emergency room before I was given the diagnosis of pneumonia. The doctor explained that most likely I developed pneumonia as a complication of the flu and that due to my low oxygen levels, I would need to be admitted to the hospital. I immediately started sobbing.
Pneumonia? Was I 90 years old? That’s what I felt like. How did I let myself get this sick? I spent four days in the hospital—four long days away from my family. My oxygen was low. I couldn’t walk from my bed to the door without completely running out of breath. My coughing was so intense that I tore multiple muscles in my chest. The pain was bad and I was really scared. This wasn’t something to take lightly. Many people this year have died from the flu and for a few moments this week I was terrified that could be me too.
After days of antibiotics and fluids, I started to feel a bit better. My oxygen levels were rising and they finally released me. It’s been 5 days since I was sent home and I am still in bed. My doctors told me it could be four to six weeks before getting back to normal. I still don’t feel like myself and I am just ready for my life back.
Was this all worth it? I look back and learned an incredibly valuable lesson. As crazy as life gets, you have to take time to ensure your health and well being. Take care of yourself. Since I got home, I have started a vitamin regimen to help boost my immune system. I am drinking more water. I am focused on taking care of myself.
I will get the flu shot every year. Nothing else in life is important if you don’t have your health. This was a wake-up call to me.